By: Mitali Chaudhary

Humans have always marveled at the curves and fine lines of their own faces—thousands of years of portraiture and art can attest to this. But now that we can immortalize our pouts with the simple tap of a button, our inner narcissists have never been more prevalent. This rising trend of taking ridiculous amounts of “selfies,” and meticulously inspecting them for flaws, not only reveals our infatuation with the “perfect body” and ourselves but also displays blatant selfishness and an inflated self-worth, especially when taken in inappropriate places.

Unfortunately, technology only propagates this culture. Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, and other social media platforms provide the perfect environment to post selfies, where the poster can get instant validation and encouragement to publish more of the same. Another example is Snapchat, in which the whole point is to send innumerable selfies (with one line of text). In fact, recent scientific studies show that some degree of narcissism correlates directly with the number of followers, likes, status updates and, of course, selfies an individual has. Because in this digital age it is wholly accepted to do so, we can easily engage in shameless self-promotion without consequence.

This culture shows its truly ugly side when people are driven to take selfies in extremely inappropriate situations. A few unforgettable examples include “selfie at Auschwitz,” or the one where a woman took a selfie while a man was in the background being talked down from the side of a bridge by the police. There are also the countless selfies taken at funerals. Such behaviour demonstrates callousness and a shift in moral values caused by an increased focus on oneself and, although these cases are few, show a possible path our society can take due to extreme selfie culture.

It’s a given that seeking the approval of others and taking the occasional selfie is healthy and fun, to an extent. Our obsession with being admired by others and believing that the world cares about the details of our lives however, is not. If we, as a society, continue to place our attention on our physical selves, then empathy and the willingness to help others will inevitably decline further. This is a societal problem that we can afford. So, love yourself, but not too much.

In recent weeks my Facebook Newsfeed has been flooded with #nocamerafilter #naturalbeauty #nomakeup selfies. Hundreds of bare-faced people smiling, and tagging he, she, and so and so they haven’t spoken to since kindergarten.

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I don’t care for Facebook trends. I’m rarely nominated and would ignore the nomination if it happened. Still, if people wanted to go out of their comfort zone and display their naked face to the world, go ahead. Make-up, no make-up, I really don’t care. Whatever makes a person happy.

It wasn’t until one of my Facebook friends took a picture of her chest that I had any idea that this craze was for cancer.

I’ll ask the obvious question: How is this helping cancer?

I don’t blame the participants for thinking they are doing something good. It’s like liking that page for Kony 2012 to save the Invisible Children. People hear about something bad or sad and feel obligated to help. It’s too bad that help seems to be a simple click; a simple bare-faced smile that they think makes all the difference. The world will be a better place and cancer will be known (because there obviously is no awareness) and cured because of your naked smiling face.

I understand why the participants think they are helping. Cancer patients often feel embarrassed and self-conscious over their appearance because of the exhausting effects that chemo and radiation. The no make-up selfie then inspires people to feel like a cancer patient, to show their unpampered face and feel the same embarrassment without their make-up to protect them.

In theory it’s a good idea, but in reality it’s selfish. When the no make-up selfie craze began in the U.K. people were hashtagging and smiling their tired face-off, but most people were also donating. In 48 hours the #NoMakeupSelfie campaign earned more than $5 million Canadian in donations to Cancer Research U.K.

Of my 245 friends on Facebook only two have done anything with the selfie that promotes cancer awareness. My mentioned friend above also took a picture of her throat, highlighting the different types of cancers there are to bring awareness. My other friend actually donated to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.

Instead of posting no make-up selfies people can do so much more to help spread cancer awareness. People can donate to the various cancer charities that exist, people can volunteer at Jurivinski, people can even knit squares for blankets for cancer patients!

There are so many productive things people can do to actually make a difference.
My mom was recently diagnosed with breast cancer for the third time, and that might allow you to read this article as a personal complaint on a fad. But you don’t need a mother who has fought cancer multiple times to consciously know that there are better ways to advocate for cancer awareness and donations then posting a selfie.
In the meantime I will be helping my mother cook and clean around the house. I will be going with her to appointments and in my spare time I’ll knit some squares for blankets for Jurivinski.

I want to actively help, and I hope you’ll join me.

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